DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks once again, to Debbie, for the beta and the constant, unconditional support.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN: For the FemSlash Advent Calendar::Dead of Winter 2006.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
All I Want For Christmas Is You
The weeks leading up to Christmas were pure hell for Sara Sidle. She hated everything about the season, from the music, to the decorations, to the cheery dispositions people felt they had to portray. She never understood what made these few weeks so special, because, growing up, there was no special treatment shown for the holiday. No, it was business as usual at the Sidle household, and she had the scars to prove it.
Walking into the CSI building, she stepped past the festive decorations and cringed when the almost life size Santa began to sing, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas." No matter how far away she stayed from the animated model, she always managed to trip the motion sensor, which in turn, triggered the singing, dancing Santa. Just once, she wished she could drop kick the irritating fat man through the exit doors.
Sighing, she continued down the corridor and turned into the break room where Catherine and the guys were drawing names out of a mug. Greg spotted the sullen CSI and said, "Hey Sara, we're drawing Secret Santas. Come join the fun."
"No thanks, Greg. I think I'm going to pass this year," the brunette replied, moving to the coffeemaker for her first cup of the night.
"You said the exact same thing last year, Sara," her spiky haired friend protested.
"Leave her alone, Greg. If she doesn't want to play, she doesn't have to. Besides, she'd probably draw my name and forget to buy me any gifts," Catherine teased, winking to let her colleague know she was only kidding. She and Sara had finally begun to be civil to each other, even allowing the other to occasionally throw a dig or two into a conversation without the injured party coming unglued, so she was fairly certain that Sara wouldn't be upset with her remark.
Grateful for Catherine's intervention, Sara smiled and stated, "I think I'd remember to buy you some new duck statues to go along with your current collection."
Grissom entered the room with the night's assignments, stopping Catherine from playfully threatening Sara for having the audacity to tease her about the offending objects. "Nick, Warrick; DB at the Bellagio. Catherine, Greg; drive-by shooting on 3rd Street. Sara, apparent homicide on Dexter. You're working solo so call me if you need help," the supervisor said, passing out the assignment slips and turning to walk out the door.
Thankful to be working alone, Sara quickly finished her coffee and watched her team members file out one by one. Rinsing her mug and placing it in the sink, she strode from the room to retrieve her kit, and she exited the building as Santa began to dance and sing yet again.
On the way to the crime scene, Sara fiddled with the radio but couldn't find a station that wasn't playing Christmas music. Disgusted, she flipped the switch to the off position and rode the rest of the way in silence.
The CSI passed home after home lit up with Christmas decorations. Some just had lights on their eaves while others went full out with an obvious theme. Shaking her head at the amount of electricity being wasted, Sara drove the rest of the way keeping her focus on the stripes of the road instead of the lights from the houses.
Several blocks later, she caught sight of another type of light as several police cruisers had their blues and reds flashing. She quickly grabbed her kit and headed for the yellow crime scene tape where Sofia suddenly appeared at her side.
"Hey, Sara. We've got a real nasty one here." Pulling her notebook from her belt, she read, "Mr. and Mrs. Caine have a long history of reported domestic squabbles. The neighbors called in to the area precinct at least every couple of months, but Mrs. Caine always insisted her injuries were accidental. No charges have ever been filed."
The two women continued to walk toward the house with Sofia adding, "Mr. Caine is nowhere to be found, and we've put an APB out on him. This time, Mrs. Caine's not going to be able to cover his ass. Come with me to the bedroom, and I'll show you why."
Normally, Sara paid very close attention to Sofia's words, always looking for something she could take with her to ponder later. An invitation to accompany her to any bedroom was the stuff her dreams were made of, but this particular case had Sara off balance. Now, her only focus was to make it through the processing of the evidence without allowing anyone to see how upset she was with the specifics of the case.
Nothing could have prepared Sara for the gruesome, murder scene. Everything was so eerily familiar to her; the blood spatter on the nearby wall, the stark red stain on the otherwise white bedspread, the knife hilt protruding from the abdomen of the slain woman, but especially, the shocked facial expression of the victim, complete with wide, dark eyes looking right into her soul. Excusing herself, she placed her kit on the floor and quickly strode from the room, not stopping until she was standing in the middle of the backyard gasping for breath.
Feeling nauseous, Sara knelt down on the cool earth and leaned forward with her hands on her thighs. She closed her eyes and willed the bile back down as she swallowed, but the images kept replaying over and over again until Mrs. Caine's face finally morphed into that of her father's, and the bile she had successfully controlled, could no longer be contained as her earlier cup of coffee found itself on the grass of the Caine's backyard.
A gentle hand on her back alerted Sara to the presence of another, and she was both embarrassed and relieved when she heard Sofia's soft voice. "Hey, are you okay?"
Shivering, Sara slowly sat up and replied, "Yeah, it must have been something I ate."
Sofia allowed the investigator to get away with her feeble excuse, but, looking down at a pale Sara, she vowed to do a little investigating of her own. Knowing that Sara had seen worse crime scenes than this one; the detective surmised that there had to be some personal reason for her to have reacted this way.
Deciding to give Sara an out if she needed one, Sofia quietly offered, "Do you want me to call Grissom and ask for someone else so that you can go home?"
"No!" Sara replied vehemently. "I'll be fine. Just give me a minute, and I'll be right in."
Sliding her hand up to Sara's neck, Sofia gave it a gentle squeeze and said, "Okay, but let me know if you need me." Turning, the detective headed back to the house to give the investigator some time alone.
Sara took a couple of cleansing breaths and tried to clear the childhood memories from her mind. Focusing on why Grissom would send her to this particular scene gave the brunette a new purpose, and she decided that when she returned to the lab she would find her superior and ask him personally.
Returning to the bedroom, Sara moved to the body, making sure not to look at the victim's face. She concentrated instead on each individual process, and in no time, she found herself going through her usual routine.
Now that the CSI had figured out a way to make it through the scene by processing the evidence in a step by step manner and avoiding the overall picture, she became aware of Sofia's close scrutiny. Whenever she glanced over at the bedroom door, the detective was leaning against the frame watching her every move, and Sara couldn't help but wish the blonde was paying attention to her because of an attraction instead of a concern.
Collecting the last bit of evidence from the bedspread, Sara stood and stretched her aching back. It had taken her close to four hours to process the room, but she felt confident that she had everything she needed. All that was left was to move the evidence to the Denali and, judging by the number of samples she had taken, it was going to take multiple trips. Deciding now was as good a time as any, she reached down to pick up the first set of samples. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a pair of black boots come into her view.
"Need any help?" Sofia asked, standing over the crouching investigator.
Sara glanced upward, starting at the toe of the boot and slowly moving her gaze up the black jeans, past the detective shield and silk shirt, until she was looking into clear blue eyes. Swallowing, this time to keep the drool from escaping, Sara replied, "Um, yeah, that'll be great. Thanks, Sofia."
It took the women three trips to stow all the evidence into the back of the Denali. Sara turned to thank the detective, but Sofia was the first to speak. "Sara, I know this case was tough on you for some reason, and I want you to know that if you ever need anyone to talk to, I'm here for you."
Taken completely off-guard by the blonde's sincerity, Sara could only stutter, "Well, um, okay, I'll remember that. Thanks for the offer."
Sofia smiled broadly and closed the back doors to the Denali. "I mean it, Sara. Anytime, okay?" added the detective, taking Sara by the arm and escorting her to the driver's side door.
The investigator turned red, but managed to nod her head in assent. Climbing into the truck, she gave a short wave before pulling away from the curb.
Sofia glanced over her shoulder to see that the officers had everything under control so she decided to pay a little trip to Grissom. Maybe he could offer her some insight into Sara's problems; because she had a feeling Sara would never come to her, even if the stubborn CSI truly needed a friend.
An hour later, Sofia finally made it to the labs. Brass had called her to come back to the precinct to formally book Mr. Caine on resisting arrest. The other charges would have to wait until the evidence had been processed, but the detective was confident he would be charged with his wife's murder before the end of her shift.
Chuckling, she walked past the singing Santa on her way to Grissom's office. As she neared his door, she heard loud voices from within, and she hesitated before moving a little closer. There was no doubt that the two voices belonged to Grissom and Sara.
"You knew what you were assigning me to, and you knew I'd make the connection, but you still decided to send me. Even excusing your poor judgment in sending me into the lion's den, there's no excuse for not warning me as to what the hell I was walking into. Jeez, Grissom, your bugs have more sensitivity than you do," an obviously upset Sara exclaimed to her supervisor.
Grissom immediately answered, "Are you suggesting I should have shown you preferential treatment? You know I don't do that, Sara."
Laughing, Sara replied, "Oh, you've more than proved that. I'm just glad I've finally found someone else who is just as unattainable as you to hope for a relationship with, only she's cute and funny and not at all as socially inept as we are."
Confused, Grissom asked, "What do you mean?"
"I told you one day that it would be too late for us. Well, it's been too late for quite a while now. I'm officially giving you notice today," Sara offered, turning toward the office door.
"Oh," a stunned Grissom replied. The supervisor watched the brunette walk away, until he suddenly remembered something he'd been meaning to tell her. "Sara, wait. I almost forgot. Ecklie is implementing a new departmental policy. You can't work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day this year as the policy clearly states that no employee is allowed to work more than three consecutive Christmases. You've more than exceeded the limit."
Stopping dead in her tracks, Sara spun around and asked, "What?"
Grissom took off his glasses and made direct eye contact with his investigator. "You heard me. Ecklie said there would be no exceptions to the policy."
"Grissom, I need to work. I don't even like Christmas. Let me work for someone who does. What about Catherine? She's got Lindsey, and she needs to be home for her," Sara explained, hoping Grissom would change his mind since he always had a weak spot for Catherine.
"Catherine worked last year, and I promised her that I'd make sure she was off this one."
"How about ."
"No, Sara. You'll be just fine. You can cook a nice meal, watch some TV, or read a book, but you have to stay home," Grissom stated in a tone that brokered no arguments. Sara glared at her supervisor before turning on her heel to leave.
A dejected Sara walked out of Grissom's office with her head down, never noticing the person standing just around the corner. Her sole focus was on trying to figure out a way to get Grissom to change his mind and allow her to work the two Christmas shifts.
Sofia waited until Sara was out of sight before she moved around the corner and knocked on the doorframe. Striding inside the room, she closed the door behind her and said, "Grissom, we need to talk."
The next two weeks past quickly, and Sara still hadn't been able to persuade Grissom into allowing her to work. Even Catherine had tried to intervene for her with no success and since today was the eve of Christmas Eve, Sara was resigned to being home for Christmas for the first time in what seemed like forever. She only hoped that she was tough enough to survive being alone.
Gearing up for Christmas Day, everyone in the lab was excited about the upcoming event and making last minute plans. It seemed that discussing the opening of presents was the topic of the day; some opened gifts on Christmas Eve while others in the early hours of Christmas morning. Sara stayed in the background never offering any information.
Later, Sara watched from the couch as her colleague's revealed their Secret Santas. The four members of her team laughed and carried on about their daily gifts, each stating that he or she knew exactly who was responsible for buying the small tokens. Not wanting to hear any more, Sara rose from her seat and politely excused herself.
"Bah, humbug, Sara," Greg called after the retreating brunette, but Sara didn't break her stride as she walked toward her favorite lab.
No one heard her whispered reply. "If you'd experienced what I did over the years at Christmas time, you'd be a Scrooge, too."
The shift came to an end much too soon for Sara; however, she made herself wish her friends a Merry Christmas on the way out, and Greg even managed to guilt her into meeting them for breakfast before heading for home. Catherine promised to follow her all the way to the restaurant and threatened to shoot her tires out if she didn't drive straight to the diner. Laughing, Sara agreed to the conditions.
Admitting that she truly did enjoy herself, Sara gave each team member a hug before climbing into her truck to head for home. Two blocks from her apartment, she made a quick decision and turned into the local liquor store. If she was going to make it through Christmas Day, she was going to need help, lots of help.
Fifteen minutes later, Sara stepped into her apartment and placed her purchase on the bar. Deciding to get some much needed sleep, she walked directly to her room and stripped out of her clothes. She climbed under the covers and fell asleep almost immediately, and as usual, her dreams were less than pleasant.
Around three in the afternoon, Sara awoke, and out of habit, crawled out of bed and stepped into the shower. She was washing her hair when she realized that she wouldn't be going into work tonight or tomorrow night either for that matter. Rinsing the shampoo from her hair, she turned off the water and toweled off. She was in desperate need of a drink.
Pulling on a pair of sweats, Sara headed straight for the kitchen, or rather, the liquor bottles on the bar. She grabbed a glass from the cabinet and began to open the Crown Royal when a knock sounded on the door. Cursing, she made her way to the door to get rid of the person who more than likely was knocking on the wrong door.
Sara didn't even bother looking into the peephole as she unlocked the deadbolt and flung the door open. She almost fell on her ass when she spotted Sofia standing just outside with a pizza box in one hand and holding a bag with her other.
"Sofia?" Sara asked, as if there were some other person walking around Vegas who happened to look just like the detective.
"Hey, Sara, mind if I come in?" Sofia replied with a hypnotizing smile.
Sara stepped back and allowed the detective into her apartment without a second thought, but when Sofia spotted the three bottles of Crown on the bar, the brunette began to question her judgment.
For her part, Sofia immediately relaxed when she realized that none of them had been opened yet; although, she was quite sure that wouldn't have been the case had she not dropped by unexpectedly. Not wanting to get kicked out so soon after arriving, Sofia walked past the bottles without a word, and she patted herself on the back when she noticed the relieved look on Sara's face.
Sara watched in total disbelief as Sofia began to pull things out of the bag; popcorn, caramels, milk, eggs, cokes, water, cheese, green onions, and several DVDs. The detective continued to make herself at home as she placed the perishable items in the refrigerator. Turning to the brunette, she asked, "Where are the plates?"
Wordlessly, Sara pointed to a nearby cabinet, Sofia smiled and removed two plates. She opened the pizza box, and a curious Sara walked around the bar to see what the blonde had brought. She grinned when she recognized her favorite, vegetarian supreme.
The two women served themselves and moved to sit at the table. Sara took a big bite and showed her approval by moaning aloud. Pleased, Sofia picked up her slice and began to eat. Soon, the entire pizza had been consumed with nary a word spoken in the interim.
Looking across at the blonde, Sara finally asked, "Sofia, what are you doing here?"
Suddenly finding the grain in the table very interesting, Sofia replied, "I'm by myself, and you're by yourself, so I thought we might spend Christmas together."
"Well, I know why I'm by myself, but why are you alone? Why aren't you visiting your family?" Sara softened her tone, trying desperately not to go ballistic on the person who had just treated her to her favorite pizza.
Shrugging, Sofia answered, "I've got to work the night after Christmas, and I didn't want to have to fly out and back in such a short amount of time. Besides, my mom is working today so we wouldn't have had much of a visit."
"Okay, then. Why me? Don't you have friends you'd rather spend the day with?" Sara persisted in her line of questioning, not willing to stop until she knew why Sofia had decided to grace the brunette with her presence.
Sofia glanced over at the three bottles of whiskey and made her decision. Looking Sara directly in the eye, she stated, "I like you, Sara, and I don't want you to spend the next twenty four or so hours drinking. I only know two things about you. I know you like your privacy, and I know you live for your job, but I would like to get to know you, Sara. The real you, not the one you bring out in public."
The only indication that Sara had heard Sofia's confession was the narrowing of her eyes. If someone had dropped a pin in the room, a deaf person could have heard it, and Sofia chose to sit quietly and wait for the brunette to make the first move.
Sofia had a difficult time keeping herself from squirming under the intense gaze she was receiving from Sara, but she knew she had to maintain her poise or else she'd never have a chance with the reserved woman. Their friendship, their relationship, and their future, all depended on this moment.
The detective knew she had made it over the first hurdle when Sara quietly asked, "What are the caramels for?"
Relieved beyond belief, Sofia put her hand on her chest and mocked, "You mean you've never had caramel popcorn before?"
Smiling, Sara shook her head no, and their friendship had begun.
Later, the two women were sitting on the couch watching "Christmas Vacation" and eating from a bowl of sticky popcorn, or at least, that's what Sara deemed the concoction when she placed her hand in the caramel drizzled popcorn and came away with sticky fingers.
"I've never seen this movie," Sara said, reaching into the bowl for more of the treat.
"You're kidding; this is one of the best Christmas movies ever made," Sofia explained, reaching into the bowl and placing her sticky hand on top of Sara's.
An evil grin suddenly formed on Sara's face, and Sofia knew she was in for it. Jumping from the couch, she ran into the kitchen with Sara hot on her trail and still holding the bowl of sticky popcorn.
Sara cornered her prey and poured the remaining popcorn on Sofia's head as the detective tried gamely to keep the caramel coated kernels from landing in her hair. Not wanting to let Sara get the best of her, Sofia reached out and wrestled the brunette to the floor, making it a point to rub her sticky hands in the CSI's hair.
Both women were rolling on the floor and laughing uncontrollably, and when their motion finally ceased, Sara was on top of Sofia looking down at the caramel covered blonde. Soon, the laughter changed to chuckles which changed to smiles, and the only sound was that of their heavy breathing. As if in silent agreement, Sara lowered her head just as Sofia lifted hers, and their lips met in a sweet, gentle kiss.
Pulling away, Sara smiled and cheekily asked, "What are the eggs for?"
Sofia returned the brunette's smile and reached up to pull her back down for another kiss.
An hour later, both women were squeaky clean from their showers, separate of course, and Sara had sent Sofia down to her car to get the bag she had packed in hopes of staying overnight. Sara had teased Sofia about being so sure of herself that she packed a bag, but the detective pointed out that if she had truly been certain, she would have brought the bag up with the pizza.
Opting for music over movies, the two women moved back to the couch, but this time they ended up lying in each other's arms listening to the Christmas songs.
"You know, I can't tell you how many years it's been since I voluntarily listened to Christmas music. I don't have many good memories of Christmas," Sara offered, lightly running her hand up Sofia's arm.
Knowing how difficult it was for Sara to share any thoughts about her past, Sofia began to tell the brunette about her Christmas memories whether they be happy, sad, funny, or joyous. Sara held onto the blonde and reveled in the closeness they were sharing.
When Sofia finished her stories, Sara nervously asked, "Um, Sofia? Do you think that we can get to know each other better before, um, you know?"
"Yes, Sara. I didn't intend to come over here tonight and jump your bones. I'd like for us to spend more time together as well, but I do intend to sleep in your arms tonight, if that's okay?" Sofia softly whispered.
"I'd like that," Sara replied in a very uncharacteristic shy tone. Sofia turned in the brunette's arms and lightly kissed her lips, reassuring her that she wasn't going anywhere.
As the soft refrain of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" began to play, Sofia glanced at her watch, noting that it was officially midnight.
"Sara? In my family, we watch movies and listen to Christmas music, and at the stroke of midnight, we tell everyone what we want for Christmas. It's tradition to look deep into one's heart and be truthful with the wish," Sofia explained. "Would you like to join in the tradition or would you rather not?"
"You go first," the investigator replied, pulling the detective closer.
"Okay, let's see. All I want for Christmas is for people to get along," Sofia offered almost in a prayer-like voice. "Now you go," she instructed the brunette.
Sara hesitated; knowing that her wish was strictly personal, she spent a moment in brief contemplation, before deciding that it was okay for her to want something for herself; after all the heartache and pain she'd suffered through the years, she'd earned it.
Turning Sofia's face toward her, she confessed, "All I want for Christmas is you."
Searching Sara's dark eyes, Sofia could only see sincerity with a brief glimpse of uncertainty. She immediately vowed to do everything in her power to show Sara that she wasn't going to leave her as others had before. Gently taking Sara's face in her hands, Sofia kissed her lips reverently, pouring her heart and soul into the gesture.
Now their relationship had begun, all that was left was their future, and, if Sara truly wanted her, then who was Sofia Curtis to stand in her way.
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